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POSTED: September 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Snelson-Golden Principal Chris Garretson

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Administrators say Liberty County schools are still in good shape even though the Georgia Department of Education declared the system did not meet Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind standards.
Both high schools, Snelson-Golden Middle School and Button Gwinnett Elementary did not make AYP in 2007-08.
Schools that do not make AYP for two consecutive years are ranked as in Needs Improvement status.
Dr. Karen Grant, executive director of curriculum, encourages the public to consider other factors, such as a “safe and nurturing school environment,” when determining the value of education at a school.
The board will continue to work with all schools to improve student achievement and provide exceptional learning environments, Grant said, but she wants to make it clear that Needs Improvement schools are not failing schools, simply under-performing.
“AYP is only one indication of the quality of a school,” she said.
Dr. Chris Garretson, principal at Snelson-Golden Middle School, agreed and said AYP was just a way to hold schools accountable.
He does not think the community should look down on schools that did not meet standards this year.
“AYP is not a reflection of the school, nor the teachers,” Garretson said. “This is something we’ve been going and telling our parents and teachers for years.”
This was the first year SGMS did not made AYP in the last four years.
“The biggest difference, this year, with AYP is the bar got raised for math and for the reading test,” Garretson said. “While we made progress in the students with disabilities subgroup, we didn’t make enough progress.”
Sometimes student test scores can plateau, according to Garretson, making it difficult to see progress.
And, under No Child Left Behind, all students are to meet or exceed standards by 2014.
Garretson said his school has been required to show 10 to 12 percent improvements a year and “this year, we just didn’t quite make it.”
The margin between making AYP in the reading content area was 13 students.
“So when you’re looking at those percentages you’re literally looking at a handful of students,” Garretson said.
He noticed how federal guidelines require schools to modify instruction for special-needs students, but the standardized test cannot be changed to reflect the different learning styles.
“We need to provide the modifications for how they learn...but then the federal government says ‘Everybody gets the same test’,” Garretson said.
Besides judging schools on AYP, he thinks the public should also look at what students are doing in the classroom.
“Where is your child coming in at the beginning of the year, versus where are they leaving at the end of the year,” he said. “I think that progress, that growth over the course of time is really what parents and the community should be focusing in on.”
Teachers give assessments and benchmark tests throughout the year to help track student achievement and what they’ve learned.
“I believe we have a really strong teaching staff,” he said. “And our academics are good.”
Garretson said the school has consistently performed well.
“My concern is when things come out in the media...there has to be more understanding of why the schools didn’t make it,” he said.
The board was especially proud of three of the county’s schools, Lewis Frasier Middle, Liberty Elementary and Midway Middle, for making AYP this year after missing the mark last year.
In order to get off the Needs Improvement list, schools must met AYP for two consecutive years.
LCHS has not met AYP since 2004-05 school year. This is Bradwell’s second year of not making AYP.
This year was the first time Button Gwinnett Elementary has not made AYP in at least five consecutive academic years.
 

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